The Ford Focus ST is one of the household names when it comes to hot hatches. Along with the Volkswagen Golf GTI they define the best recipe to inject performance into a mainstream hatchback. Now in its third generation, the new ST – for Sports Technologies – is set to push the envelope even further.
The new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet is one cylinder and half a litre down on its predecessor, known then as the XR5 Turbo, but gains direct injection. Despite the downsizing, the more conventional four-pot now makes 184 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque, a substantial increase from the previous 166 kW and 320 Nm.
The ST is available as a five-door only this time, as the three-door version of the previous model didn’t find enough buyers for Ford to justify keeping it in production. Sharply priced at $38,290 (excl. on roads), the ST costs less than many of its direct rivals, and is over $3k cheaper than the Mk7 Golf GTI manual.
Design and Comfort
The new Focus ST certainly has the looks department ticked. With a gaping front grille, lower front bumper, side skirts, beefier rear bumper with centre exit rear exhaust, and a prominent rear spoiler, the Focus ST looks the business. Compared to a standard Focus, the ST sits 10mm closer to the ground and rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235mm wide tyres all round. Draped in the bright yellow “Tangerine Scream” colour as in our test car, it stands out more than a VW Golf GTI.
Inside, a pair of body colour matching Recaro sport seats is the first thing that grabs your attention. They are seriously comfortable and supportive too – one of the best we have ever sat in. The driving position is also spot on. The dashboard is new age, sizzled with cool looking dials and a grippy sports steering wheel, although ergonomic and ease of use need some rework. Aluminium pedals, metal gear lever and a splash of ST badges prepped the interior for a sporty drive.
The ST retains the practicality and space of the standard Focus, offering good cabin space for four adults and a child. However, the boot space of 316-litres trails the VW Golf and even the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Performance and Handling
The Focus ST features the most powerful version of the company’s EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Its 184 kW of power peaks at 5500 rpm, with 340 Nm of torque accessible from 2000 to 4500 rpm. Driving the front wheels through a slick six-speed manual gearbox (no automatic option), the engine feels lively and very eager to rev. Power delivery is strong across the rev range and most punchy in the mid range. Acceleration from 0 to 100km/h is a claimed 6.5 seconds (6.6 seconds tested).
For those who missed the orchestra of the brilliant sounding five-cylinder in the old model, you will be pleased with the new unit’s equally great soundtrack. Plant the throttle and a snarling growl rushes in from under the bonnet, thanks to a clever sound symposer that specially channels sound from the engine bay through to the rear of the dashboard. The meaty exhaust note only adds to the aural sensation.
If the ST sounds awesome, then its handling is even more impressive. With torque vectoring at the front axle ensuring maximum traction, the ST punches from corner to corner with superb body control and excellent grip. Point the car in the direction you want and it will get the job done with not a slightest hint of hesitation. The steering is sharp, accurate and feeds you with all the information you need from the front wheels and the tarmac.
The improved chassis and suspension ensure the ST stays flat through the bends. It also reacts swiftly to quick direction changes, making it feel very agile. With all the power going to the front wheels, torque steer is evident but is only aggressive during flat-out straight line acceleration in the first two gears.
The brakes are full of bite with good feel through the pedal. During our handling test, they also stood up to the punishment of the 38°C Australian summer heat pretty well after the onslaught of hard braking through 68 corners.
For a sports hatch with low profile performance tyres, the ST’s ride quality around town is surprisingly good. It’s firm but never harsh. However, the poor turning circle will make navigating tight space a challenge.
The German-built Ford Focus ST is very well made, if a bit plasticky around the centre console. Panels are well aligned with no noticeable rattles or squeaks around the cabin. Switch gears are well-weighted and have a robust feel to them, while fit and finish are up to class standard.
Under heavy hammering, the fuel tank in the ST empties fast, despite Ford’s effort to make it more frugal than the previous model. Over our week long test, the Focus ST returned an average of 9.9L/100km with about 65% of its time spent on urban traffic and the rest on the freeway plus a few spirited hill runs. That’s not too bad for a performance hatch but still not as impressive as the VW Golf GTI.
Despite having a price tag that undercuts most of its rivals, the Ford Focus ST does not skim on equipment. Standard features includes Recaro front seats, keyless entry, 60:40 split folding rear seats, cruise control, hill start assist, dusk sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers, rear view camera and parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. There is also a thumping Sony Audio System with 9 speakers and 5-inch display.
On the safety front, the ST is equipped with 6 airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system and traction control.
The 2014 Ford Focus ST performs well and is a fine example of how a hot hatch should be – fast, enthusiastic and fun without sacrificing everyday usability. The new 2.0-litre turbo four is packed with torque and sounds incredible. It’s suspension is well judged for excellent handling and smooth ride. Apart from the noticeable torque steer and the rather fussy dashboard, the ST is hard to fault.
Costing less than all of its key rivals yet comprehensively equipped, the new Focus ST is a brilliant effort from the Blue Oval.
|Price (Excl. On-Roads):||From: $38,290 / As tested: $38,290|
|Warranty:||3-year or 100,000km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol (FWD):|
184kW @ 5,500rpm, 340Nm @ 2,000 – 4,500rpm;
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||Claimed: 7.4L/100km; Tested: 9.9L/100km|
|0-100km/h||Claimed: 6.5 seconds; Tested: 6.6 seconds|
|Body:||5-door hatchback; 5-seat|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4362mm, Width: 1823mm, Height: 1484mm, Wheelbase: 2648mm|